Weekly Update: Partying with Tax Dollars
APRIL 20, 2012
A Trifecta of Waste, Fraud and Abuse
Colombian hookers, mind readers and luxury travel – this is how government officials have been “investing” your hard earned tax dollars, if press reports are to be believed regarding three massive scandals now rocking the Obama administration.
First, take a look at how the president’s Secret Service agents decided to run “advance” for the president in the lead up to an economic summit in Colombia. According to ABC News:
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, facing questions on Capitol Hill about whether the escapades could have jeopardized the president’s security, said he had referred the matter to an independent government investigator.
Sullivan said the 11 Secret Service agents and 10 military personnel under investigation were telling different stories about who the women were. Sullivan has dispatched more investigators to Colombia to interview the women, said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Three of the Secret Service agents have “separated” from the agency. But what about Director Sullivan? President Obama immediately expressed confidence in Sullivan. Mitt Romney also played the DC establishment game by echoing Obama’s “confidence” line, but suggested the scandal resulted from a failure of leadership. Why the rush to defend the man at the top of a scandal that is still emerging? Why indeed, said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT). Per Reuters:
Leahy, who has demanded a briefing on the alleged misconduct, said of Sullivan: “I’m not taking any position on him until I hear what is going on, who’s allowed it, and who’s taking responsibility.”
Leahy isn’t often correct, but he is absolutely correct on this. This “incident,” described as “the worst scandal in modern times” for the Secret Service, came at a time when Congress had initiated an investigation into another massive scandal, this one involving a lavish Las Vegas party hosted by officials from the General Services Administration (GSA). TIME has the details on the party, which evidently cost taxpayers $823,000:
Lawmakers are taking turns lambasting the General Services Administration for its lavish spending habits, and the agency will endure a third consecutive day of scrutiny Wednesday when two Senate committees review its budget…
The federal government’s real estate and supply agency made waves for stiffing taxpayers with an $823,000 bill from a Las Vegas conference in October 2010, but further probes revealed a history of excessive spending and misconduct.
(The press reports criticizing the party are feeding off of a GSA Inspector General’s report, which you can read in its entirety here.) As I say, TIME posts the line-by-line breakdown for this “blow-out.” Here are a few of the highlights:
* $136,000 for a pre-conference visit which included $57 lunches.
* $31,000 on a network reception that included $7,000 in sushi.
* And my personal favorite: $3,200 for a private session with a mind reader!
Judicial Watch hasn’t widely publicized this yet, but we represent a GSA employee who alleges that she is being retaliated against for blowing the whistle on the devil-may-care attitude that key GSA officials have towards taxpayer money. From what I understand, “parties” and other wasteful activities are par for the course at GSA.
And then there’s Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his taxpayer-funded luxury trips back and forth to his walnut farm in California.
Panetta says he “regrets” costing the taxpayers $860,000 for these trips since he joined the Pentagon, but “it’s healthy to get out of Washington periodically just to get your mind straight and your perspective straight.” As you know, we’ve been screaming from the rooftops about the abuse of military resources by the Obama family and by members of Congress, specifically by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And let’s be clear about how we got here. Bill Clinton ran around the White House sexually assaulting women and seducing interns, so why would anyone be surprised that Secret Service agents think they can patronize prostitutes? Nancy Pelosi treated the U.S. Air Force like her own personal airline and was never held to account, so why shouldn’t Leon Panetta reach into our pockets for expensive, coast-to-coast trips to his walnut farm? President Obama uses the White House as fundraising/party hall, and spends our tax money on expensive, corrupt bailouts for his green energy boondoggles so why shouldn’t GSA employees party like it’s 1999?
Here’s a question: With all of this waste, fraud and abuse, where is Congress! These abuses have been hiding in plain sight for years with no competent congressional oversight of the money it designates to these agencies.
Congress will now pretend to be interested with a series of hearings into all these new scandals, and they may give us more useful information and accountability despite the politics. But you can rely on Judicial Watch to conduct independent, comprehensive investigations of all of these scandals and to stand in the gap long after Congress gets excited for a few weeks and moves on.
CFPB Director Cordray Doubted Constitutionality of His Own Appointment, Docs Uncovered by JW Show
Many have doubts about the constitutionality of President Obama’s “recess appointment” of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Now, thanks to documents we uncovered from the CFPB, we know those doubts were shared by Cordray himself.
Judicial Watch recently obtained 222 pages of records obtained pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). (This is a partial production and we expect more any day now.) Some of these documents reveal that Cordray believed his appointment could be invalidated by a court, and urged his minions to get to work pushing his agenda:
* In the same February 6, 2012, message Cordray also stated, “the fact that this appointment is for two years (and in some conceivable circumstances it could be shorter) does matter in one important respect…This time period should give to each one of us, and not only me, a fierce urgency to accomplish the work we are doing together.”
Now why would Cordray doubt the validity of his own appointment? Probably because it represents a flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution.
On January 4, 2012, President Obama announced that he was using a “recess appointment” to install Corday as head of CFPB, thereby denying the U.S. Senate the opportunity to “advise and consent” on presidential appointments, which is its constitutional mandate. But here’s the thing: Congress was still in session.
Article I, Section 5, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days ….” To prevent any recess appointment, the Republican-controlled House refused to consent to Senate adjournment, resulting in the Senate’s coming into session every three days.
Nonetheless, Obama decided that he would be the judge of whether Congress was in session. Obama bypassed the Senate and “recess appointed” Cordray, who was sworn in on January 6, 2012. And so another Obama czar, with tremendous power and zero congressional oversight, was born. (And if you want to see why congressional oversight for the CFPB would be a good idea, check out the results of our investigations into the bloated salaries of federal financial regulators.)
Republicans in the Senate previously had filibustered the Cordray nomination owing to the former Ohio Attorney General’s controversial background, long list of anti-corporate lawsuits and anti-business statements.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Cordray compared employees of a financial services company to the “Nazis at Nuremberg” who said they were just following orders. And as reported by the American Spectator, Cordray also reportedly supported ESOP, formerly known as the East Side Organizing Project, an Ohio housing advocacy group that has distinguished itself by storming into banks and by launching plastic “shark attacks” on the lawns of private homes.
So Cordray apparently has a penchant for inflammatory rhetoric and over-the-top guerilla intimidation tactics. And that’s why he never would have survived confirmation by the Senate.
As I’ve mentioned previously, while Cordray had no hesitation hammering corporate America, he also turned a blind eye to rampant corruption inside the Ohio state government when he served as the state’s Attorney General.
I am referring, of course, to the sleazy, underhanded and unlawful scheme by Ohio government officials to comb through the files of Joe Wurzelbacher (aka “Joe the Plumber”). The three officials, reportedly Obama supporters all, allegedly retaliated against Joe for simply asking the would-be president a simple question about the impact of his tax policies on small businessmen. Cordray did nothing about it. (And unfortunately, as I reported to you a few weeks ago, an appellate court dismissed the lawsuit seeking accountability.)
But this is as much about Obama as it is Cordray. Cordray is your run-of-the-mill anti-business leftist zealot who will – with “fierce urgency” it appears – use the power given to him by the president to attack businesses until his appointment ends. But it is the president who stomped all over the Constitution and placed him in a position to do damage. And these astonishing documents provide further evidence that Obama’s “recess” appointment of Cordray was an abuse of office.
JW Client Family Research Council Sues U.S. Navy for Records about Decision to Ban Bibles from Walter Reed
To ban or not to ban, that was the question officials from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center apparently contemplated last year when they first imposed, then seemed to rescind, a ban on all religious materials (including Bibles) during visits with wounded warriors.
Our client, the Family Research Council (FRC), filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Department of the Navy to get to the truth in the matter. And when they hit the stone wall, JW took the case. FRC is a great national advocate on behalf of traditional values, and Judicial Watch is honored to be able to help them.
This week we filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Navy seeking access to records concerning this policy, which was announced in a September 14, 2011, memo issued by the Commander of Walter Reed.
Here are the records FRC seeks pursuant to its December 13, 2011, FOIA request filed with the U.S. Department of the Navy:
b) All communications with any third parties concerning the policy, including communications during the drafting period;
c) All records of implementation plans/guidelines of the policy; and
d) All communications concerning, regarding or relating to the revocation or possible revocation of this policy;
The U.S. Navy acknowledged receipt of the FOIA request on December 21, 2012, and was required, by law, to respond by January 23, 2012, at the latest. However, as of the date of this lawsuit, the U.S. Navy has neither produced any responsive documents nor indicated why these records should be withheld. The U.S. Navy has also failed to indicate if a response is forthcoming.
Here’s how all of this got started.
On September 14, 2011, Col. Chuck Callaghan, Chief of Staff of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, issued a memorandum on behalf of the facility’s Commander with the subject heading, “WOUNDED, ILL AND INJURED PARTNERS IN CARE GUIDELINES.”
One of the memorandum’s stipulations regarding “Partners in care guidelines” stated “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” Partners in care, as defined by the memo, include family members as well as “verifiable 501(c)(3) benevolent organizations,” among others.
So the only conclusion one could draw is that Walter Reed was, in effect, denying patients at the facility the opportunity to practice their religious faith. This would, of course, represent a flagrant violation of their First Amendment rights (rights incidentally they just defended on the battlefield).
As you might imagine, this caused quite a stir.
The FRC obtained the memorandum and shared it with members of Congress, leading to a barrage of negative press coverage. Walter Reed officials backpedaled and ultimately issued a statement rescinding the policy: “Bibles and other religious materials have always been and will remain available for patient use at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The visitation policy as written was incorrect and should have been more thoroughly reviewed before its release. It has been rescinded.”
But if they thought that would put an end to the controversy, they were wrong. Rescinding the policy was not enough. There were still so many unanswered questions, first among them: Who approved the policy and under what circumstances?
So the FRC filed a FOIA request regarding the matter. FRC President Tony Perkins issued the following statement: “We filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Walter Reed Military Medical Center in hope of understanding who authorized the Bible ban and why. Although the Center’s spokesmen assure that the policy has been rescinded, we have yet to see the revised policy. Until then, we’ll push forward with our investigation to see who or what is driving the religious purging. This is yet another troubling instance of Obama administration hostility toward religious liberty, a liberty that is guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
Needless to say, we are more than happy to represent FRC in federal court as it seeks to extract the truth from the Obama administration about its deplorable idea to ban Bibles from Walter Reed. The truth must out.
Until next week…